A March Madness Angel
Submitted by Kathleene S. Baker

March brings an array of thoughts and emotions about my mother. I have poignant moments of reflection, as it's the month she passed away. But I also have entertaining thoughts that put a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye.

Mother was a sports fans from the word go; she loved them all. But her favorite was definitely basketball, and she had played the game herself when she was in high school. From all reports, she was really quite good. With that in mind, I guess it's no wonder she loved March Madness!

We spoke long distance at least once a week, and for the most part mother and I did the visiting, except in March. That's when mother and my husband, Jerry, monopolized the calls. Dad and I just kind of sat there listening, and hoping we wouldn't fall asleep. I mean, just how much can be said about basketball games?

Mom knew the background on each player; regardless of what college he attended, as well as his hometown, and the name of the high school he had played for. Rattling off who would play next if so and so won, as well as the background on the coaches, came as easily as discussing what she was fixing for dinner. I never quite understood when or where she gathered this vast amount of information, and it never ceased to amaze me.

Being a native Kansan, and with their usually exceptional teams, mother loved taunting Jerry about how his Texas teams were, or weren't, playing. They bantered back and forth until I'm sure the phone lines were smoking! Into her eighties she could have discussed basketball with the likes of Bobby Knight, and even he would have probably walked away impressed.

Calling dad on the anniversary of her death is a must, and the call that first year was a rough one. By the second year he had made tremendous progress. After visiting a while about various things, I casually asked him if he'd been watching March Madness. I mean - that had been a major event in their household! I just knew he had been glued to the tube.

"Oh, no," he chuckled. "The only reason I ever watched it was because mom wouldn't let me get my hands on the remote control during the month of March!"

Well, who knew? I assumed he enjoyed the games, although he clearly wasn't the avid fan mother was. I had no idea he really didn't give a hoot one way or the other. All I could do was stammer and stutter, "You sure had me fooled. I thought you loved the tournament too."

Then he added, "You know, I've caught myself doing the strangest thing this week. By the time mom used to get up in the mornings, I had already finished reading the paper. During March Madness I always laid the sports page in her chair so she could read it while having her coffee. I've found myself folding it up and reaching over to lay it in her chair several times the past few days."

"Oh dad, did that make you feel sad?" I questioned, starting to choke up.

"Well, not really, but it did make me feel kind of stupid! I'd done it for so many years; I guess it had become a habit. I just kind of chuckled at myself each time, and wondered if I was getting The Alzheimer's already?" he joked. The tone of his voice assured me I need not worry; he was handling things just fine and dandy.

As for me, I'm sure an angel was playing her own kind of game with her surviving sweetheart, possibly reminding him not to dwell on her passing away in March, but that he should reminisce about the good times as well. And for mom, March Madness was simply the best of times.

Mother never attended the playoffs in person, but I know she now has a seat at center court for each and every game. Then again, maybe these days she just hovers over center court for the best view in the arena...

© 2005 Kathleene S. Baker

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